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Meetingbrook Dogen & Francis Hermitage Update March 2001

Theme: A New Orientation of Living

It is a fearsome thing to love what death can touch.
(words on a New England tombstone)

Vast and spacious, like sky and water merging during autumn, like snow and moon having the same color this field is without boundary, beyond direction, magnificently one entity without edge or seam.
        (-Hongzhi (1091-1157)

      Can we touch without taking? Can we listen without sound? Can we love without fear?
At Lectio Divina this morning Pam says, “the trees don’t fly away.” We tell her it is a good title for a poem. She is telling of the love of nature that soothes and expands us from our narrow understanding of our “self” as contained by the skin enwrapping our bodies. As a child, nearsightedness limits our ability to see something lovely from a distance, and approaching closer, the birds fly away. But trees stay. You approach, look closely, touch and come to share their intimacy. Diversity in nature like variety in persons has its patterns of nearness and farness. Some delight in the flighty pattern of birds, others in the rooting pattern of trees.

      At Friday Evening Poetry, Virginia read a piece of hers wondering where those she’s met on stage go when curtain is closed. Dick read David Whyte’s conversation with John O’Donohue over a pint wherein one wondered whether we could take the terror if we experienced how alone we really are. In response the other wondered if we could take the intimacy if we experienced how joined at the hip we are. Hugh the artist brought out a sample of his “fax tape image period” affixing the dark inky square to the bakery case and later the harbor window – only light can make the image visible to us. Along with Naomi Nye, Rainer Maria Rilke, Mary Oliver, & Alla Bozarth – we are serenaded with earth, angels, ordinariness, pole beans in cloister gardens, and the sensuousness of nude ecstasy in the time before ashes.

      At Thursday Evening Christian Contemplative Studies Richard Rohr’s words that to be in competition is not to be in love. Forrest speaks of the difficulty of arriving at mature understanding, that our object-making of the good mother and the bad mother needs to evolve into the simple fact of both are the same mother. Tom tells how “that of God” in us is often personified, personalized and objectified and, (possessive creatures produced by a possessive culture such as ours), we cling fast to that which is our idea of God while the reality of God moves on, in, out, and through each and all. Everything does belong. Perhaps a time will come when we accept that fact and be grateful for it. Until then we practice allowing each thing, each person to be itself, herself, himself enroute the Truly Itself we long to realize in the here and now.

      At Wednesday Evening Conversation Kristen reads an excerpt from Job’s Body: A Handbook for Bodywork.  She goes on to speak about the intimacy and trust required in massage and therapeutic touch. Coming to the awareness of love and intimacy in this bodywork can be unsettling, “Oh my, am I falling in love here?” During the conversation Ellen is touching Sando (who has been displaced on the bench by late arriving schooner-hand Susan.) Sando licks Ellen’s hand, receiving her own massage in return. Someone reflects on Kristen’s account that we find it uncertain to realize the simple fact, “We are in love!” That love is all there is! Rather the impulse of ego is to appropriate this love to oneself with feelings and statements that assert, “this is my love, this person (object) is mine, I own this, ” followed by battling defense and prolongation of suffering. We try to make ours what we already are. We try to grab and accumulate as “mine” that which already belongs to all. What sweetness will arise when we are able to understand and realize “We are in love!” Love is the very breath we breathe. Breath is teacher. This is love. This is what God is. If we stop trying to become what we think we should be, perhaps we can be what we already are -- here and now.

      At Tuesday Evening Buddhist Meditative Studies, Susan S-H (Lucky’s other end-of-leash), reads an article from Tricycle that makes us question whether our contemporary culture is caused by our unawareness, or whether we are the way we are because of our culture. Not merely a chicken and egg question, we are put in mind of the writings of Daniel Quinn (e.g. Ishmael, The Story of B) who suggests that we are a “taker” culture. We undergo a great forgetting, thereby holding ourselves exempt from core laws of nature. We cultivate the belief that man is the goal of all creation and history, taking to ourselves and dominating as our possession anything, anyone, anyplace we can. We have forgotten how to leave things as they are, interconnected, interdependent, shared. The philosopher Heidegger puts it that we have forgotten Being.

      In the second hour wrestling with Trungpa’s chapter on how the ego comes to be, Jory reminds us that Chogyam is writing Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism to free us from the idea that accumulating accomplishment and building up portfolios of studiousness and levels makes us any different than those behaving similarly on Wall Street or at yard sales. By making solidity of spaciousness we run the risk of incessant defensiveness. Perhaps all we can do at present is to become a bit more aware of how we make nothing into something and then spend a great deal of our lives either apologizing, defending, aggrandizing or hoarding what is in itself a passing breath or a flowing sound.

      There was no Sunday Evening Practice this past week. Saskia was visiting her mother who is not feeling well. I was in silence four days. Two brief poems:
  1.    about silence  /  nothing to be said
  2.    it is time  /  to be spoken to  /  in silence

Finally, lines from Edward Schillebeeckx’s Jesus, An Experiment in Christology:

At first Mary thinks that they have ‘taken away’ the body of Jesus (Jn.20:11-15). Her recognition that the ‘gardener’ is Jesus is auditory, not visual; Jesus says ‘Mary’, and she replies ‘Rabboni’. The structuralists call this the ‘fatic code’, just as when picking up the telephone somebody says ‘Hello!’; its only function is to clinch the renewed contact. Then too rabboni as a form of address is confined in the gospels to use by intimate disciples. In other words, spiritual contact with Jesus, ruptured by death, has been restored: they can once more address each other in intimate, personal terms, death notwithstanding. Death has not shattered living communication with Jesus: that is, he continues after his death to offer those who are his a fellowship belonging to and constituting life. In this fellowship believers experience Jesus as brought back from the realm of the dead, that is, as the One who lives or the One who has risen again. After his death intercourse, conversation, with him continues – in a very personal sense. Mary Magdalene may have played a part we do not know about in helping to convince the disciples that the new orientation of living that this Jesus has brought about in their lives has not been rendered meaningless by his death – quite the opposite. In these accounts of ‘private appearances’ – a record of very intimate, personal religious experiences – the community recognizes its own experience.         (p.345)

At Dogen & Francis Hermitage we’re learning our longing to touch, listen, and love. We listen to others’ words, converse with each other, sit in silence. As a loosely knit, non-residential community of ordinary people we enquire into these longings and consider ways in which our takings, sounds, and fears travel with us journeying life through death. This Christian season of Lent provides a context for our longing and journey. Meetingbrook longs for its monastic silence to borrow and share with others. We long to touch, listen, and love those who travel this common journey. It is, indeed, a fearsome thing to love what death can touch. Let’s say: “hello, welcome, rest a while,” and touch each other in passing!

Let’s pray for each other, awaiting the gifts necessary to create this place for each other – each their own retreat monastic hermitage for those passing through life, through death – a new orientation of living!

With love, , Sando , Mini and all who grace Meetingbrook

3March2001, First Saturday in Lent,  www.meetingbrook.org 

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